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Worldwide fans of Kobe Bryant celebrated Black Mamba’s legacy Thursday, marking three years to the day since the tragic accident that claimed the lives of Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven others.

According to People, during a foggy California morning on Jan. 26, 2020, Kobe, 13-year-old Gianna, and six of their friends boarded a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter flown by pilot Ara Zobayan. The group was flying from John Wayne Airport in Orange County to a basketball tournament at Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks.

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A year-long National Transportation Safety Board investigation later found that pilot error was the most consequential reason for the accident that morning.

Kobe Bryant celebrated and mourned three years later

His success co-captaining the Lakers ship with Shaquille O’Neal in the early 2000s put the Lake Show back on the basketball map after struggling to find relevance after Magic Johnson retired.

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In their 86-page report, NTSB investigators found that Zobayan flew through clouds — an apparent violation of federal standards — which likely led to him being spatially disorientated during their flight.

Kobe’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters, which was settled for an undisclosed amount in June 2021.

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In August 2022, Vanessa was subsequently awarded $16 million in a lawsuit against L.A. County over graphic photos of Kobe and Gianna that were allegedly taken at the crash scene by emergency responders.

Loved by fans and respected by peers, Kobe endeared himself to a new generation of hoop fans and imparted sage wisdom to the next generation of superstars.

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“I remember just playing against Kobe, even that farewell tour, and having an opportunity to play against a legend like that is something I’m going to be able to tell my kids about,” Orlando Magic guard Gary Harris told Sports Illustrated.

“He inspired all of us to play the game of basketball, so it’s definitely going to be a tough day for a lot of us,” said Harris.

The Robb Report states next month, Sotheby’s will take bids for the late Bryant’s MVP season jersey that he wore in 25 games during the 2007-08 campaign. The signed jersey is estimated to sell for between $5 million and $7 million by the auction house. 

Bryant spent 20 years in the league with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five championships.

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In 2003, while the mainstream media followed his sexual assault case in Denver with the same veracity as most Black professional athletes, Kobe was able to reconcile with Vanessa during the highly publicized trial.

According to Yahoo, the couple also survived a devastating miscarriage. The pair initially announced their plans to separate in 2011, but they later called off the divorce proceedings and opted to stay together in 2013.

November 1999
Kobe and Vanessa first crossed paths when he was 21 and she was 17.
Stewart Cook/Shutterstock

Kobe Bryant was inducted posthumously into The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fameon May 15, 2021, after the ceremony was delayed by almost nine months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vanessa accepted the award on her late husband’s behalf and spoke about both Kobe and Gigi in her speech.

The Mamba Sports Foundation was a charity launched by Kobe in 2016 after his retirement from basketball, with the name being a nod to his nickname, the Black Mamba.

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The organization provides funding and sports programming for young athletes in underserved communities, as is stated in its mission on its official website.

Fans around the world have spent Thursday honoring the Black Mamba legacy.

Tributes paid to Kobe Bryant. Michael Tullberg/Getty Images


Hailing from Charlotte North Carolina, born litterateur Ezekiel J. Walker earned a B.A. in Psychology at Winston Salem State University. Walker later published his first creative nonfiction book and has...